Blockade Dismantled, Seventy-Two Families Relocated For Murum Dam

Over the weekend, three longhouse communities consisting of seventy-two Penan and Kenyah families were relocated by car to new villages in the Tegulang Resettlement Area, as part of the Murum Hydropower Project. The process was delayed by a blockade made by Kenyah Badeng villagers, who later reached a settlement with Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang, after which the blockade was dismantled.

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BLOCKADE: Kenyah Badeng of Long Lawen set up a blockade in the middle of the road about 10 minutes’ drive away from the Tegulang Resettlement Area. The blockade delayed the time for the Penans and Kenyah from Long Malim Kenyah and Long Malim Penan to reach the settlement area by three hours until it was resolved amicably by Belaga Assemblyman Liwan Lagang who is also Culture and Heritage Assistant Minister.

Penans, Kenyahs affected by Murum Dam have moved to Tegulang Resettlement Area

MURUM: The resettlement of families from three villages affected by the RM4 billion Murum hydroelectric dam project to Tegulang Resettlement Area (Tegulang) was completed yesterday.

Seventy-two families from the Long Malim Kenyah (18 families) and Long Malim Penan (54 families) moved to Tegulang yesterday.

The first batch, involving 89 families from Long Wat, was resettled there on Sept 9 this year.

The 944 megawatt (MW) Murum dam project affects a total of seven villages. The remaining four would be resettled in Metalun, which is not ready yet.

Eighty-four 4-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles started bringing the 72 families to Tegulang at 8am. Some bade farewell to their village at about 9.30am.

NEW RESETTLEMENT: Arrival at Tegulang Resettlement Area. A Penan youth taking pictures to record the historical event.

In the thick of action were Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang, Belaga Deputy Resident Joseph Ikan, personnel from eight government agencies and Murum dam project proponent Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB). A medical team was also in the convoy.

The convoy was supposed to reach the resettlement site by 2pm, but they made it only at 5.10pm because some 20 Kenyah Badeng natives, who lived around the area, had set up a blockade at a site that was about a 10 minutes’ drive from Tegulang.

The protesters, led by their village head Gava Jalong, claimed the land occupied by the Tegulang Resettlement Area was their ‘Tanah Adat’ (ancestral land) and as such they should be compensated for the loss of land, fruits and cash crops planted there.

Liwan then held two separate meetings with two different groups of Kenyah Badeng, but both meetings were led by Gava.

A consensus was struck at 5pm, and the blockade was dismantled to allow the convoy to past through.

Joseph, who directed the operation yesterday, described the resettlement, which was codenamed ‘Operation Pasu’ (move), as a success.

“We also registered every household, property and livestock. To ease their relocation, we not only prepared their transport, but also their food and refreshment that would last until tomorrow (today),” he told The Borneo Post.

Andy Bidan, 26, from Long Malim Penan, and his wife Lis, 24, said they had looked forward to the resettlement and that they were satisfied with all the arrangements made.

“They even packed food for us so that we don’t have to cook since yesterday,” said the father of two.

His father, Ladak Nura, preferred to stay for another day in the village to keep an eye on some properties, including an outboard engine, that would moved be to Tegulang today.

Liwan, who is also Assistant Minister of Social Development (Culture and Heritage), too echoed that he was satisfied with the overall preparations made, and said he believed there was nothing for the resettlers to complain about.

“Though attachment to their old place was unavoidable, they have to move on. Life has to go on for the better. If they continue to stay here (old place), it will be difficult for the government to help them,” said Liwan.

Citing education as an example, he said most Penans did not send their children to school as their old village was too far away from the school, which is at Sungai Asap.

“In Tegulang, there will be a school, and there will be no reason for them to keep their children at home. There will also be a clinic and agriculture office. The officers to be stationed there will teach them how to manage their home garden,” he added.

With Tegulang settled, SEB’s focus now would be on moving the villagers of Long Menapah, Long Singu, Long Luar and Long Tangau to Metalun before the complete impoundment of the dam. When the dam is ready by the end of next year, it would create a land spanning 24,500 hectares.

Liwan said he was confident the people from the four villages would make the wise choice to move.

“They need to figure out who can bring real help and development to them. The government has given them a fair deal and had taken into consideration their future.

“So, I urge them to make their decision based on the future of their community, and not popular sentiments stirred up by those with ulterior motive,” said Liwan.

He stressed that the government would not change its stand by pressure from the streets.

“Our Orang Ulu culture is such that when we are not happy, we sit together and discuss it at the ‘ruai’ (verandah) of our longhouse.

“We don’t take to the streets. If they want to negotiate, do it properly at the ‘ruai’. I won’t entertain them on the streets or by roadsides,” said Liwan.

 3 longhouse families resettled
By Lian Cheng | The Borneo Post
October 12, 2013